A concept map is a type of graphic organizer that makes connections among various concepts. It is valuable as a planning tool for essays or projects and also as a tool for teachers to assess student learning. A concept map makes ideas concrete and visual, which can lead to greater understanding. Also, concept maps make it easy to integrate new knowledge with prior knowledge and understanding. Concept mapping software is available through programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Inspiration and Kidspiration. However, a free-association type of concept map can be made easily with a word processing system with a few simple steps.

Open Microsoft Word on your computer.

Insert a circle by clicking "Insert" and then "Shapes." Click on the circle. Click and drag the mouse on the page to draw the circle.

Double-click on the circle and select the "Edit Text" icon from the "Format" toolbar. A cursor will now appear inside the circle, allowing you to type the main topic for your concept map. For example, if the concept map is about the Amazon rainforest, type "Amazon rainforest."

Click and drag the circle to move it to the appropriate position on the page. Some prefer to have the main topic at the top of the page, so that all subtopics and information appear underneath. Others prefer to place the main topic in the center of the page and place supporting information around it.

Insert circles for all of the information that you know about the topic by repeating steps two and three. For example, on a concept map of the Amazon rainforest, information might include "South America" and "deforestation."

Create connections among ideas. To create connections as you add new information to the concept map, insert lines or arrows among related concepts by clicking on "Insert," "Shapes" and selecting the line or arrow. Click and drag to position it on the page.

Add connecting words on each line or arrow. To do this, select "Insert," "Text Box," draw it in the appropriate position and add connecting text. For example, the text box situated on the line between "Amazon rainforest" and "South America" could say "is located in."

Continue to add ideas and make connections until your map is complete.